Indian Style Eggplant Appetizers (Baigan Bharta Puff Pastry Recipe)
I love eggplant, especially in the form of a spread. Baji, my husband's late grandmother used to make the best one, called baigan bharta. I still make this dish very often, but when I use it as a filling (as I did today) I tweak it with a few substitutions. Specifically, instead of using yogurt, I used cream cheese and blue cheese in the eggplant spread.
I created puff pastry appetizers that bake in no time and filled them with the yummy eggplant. I topped each savory tartlet with crumbled blue cheese as a reminder of the flavor and cilantro as garnish. I was lucky to have any left for pictures, because Lulu and the girls attacked them as soon as they came out of the oven. Whether you serve them in puff pastry or go the more traditional route and prepare a bowl along with some pita bread, it’ll be a hit at your house too.
Yields: 24 appetizers6 (5 x 5-inch) squares frozen puff pastry dough (store-bought)
1 large eggplant
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste (see tips)
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground coriander, freshly ground
½ teaspoon ground cumin, freshly ground
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons green Thai bird chiles (optional), finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 tablespoons milk, as needed (depending on how you like the consistency of the filling)
4 tablespoons cream cheese, softened to room temperature
¼ cup blue cheese
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Making the eggplant filling:
Dice the eggplant into large chunks, leaving the skin on. In a large pot, bring about 4 quarts of water to a full boil. Add the eggplant. Cook for about 30-40 minutes until soft and tender.
Drain the eggplant using a fine mesh colander. Discard the liquid. Place all the eggplant pulp in a cheese-cloth and remove as much excess water as possible.
In a large colander, place the eggplant pulp in a double-layered cheese cloth. Wrap it and make a knot at the tip and suspend it over the colander using chopsticks. The colander is not essential but is quite convenient if the knot breaks, so you can gather the eggplant again in the cheese cloth without starting over. Let it sit for about an hour. Drain as much liquid as possible.
Reserve about 1 tablespoon of raw shallots; cook the rest. In a nonstick pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped shallots. Cook about 6-8 minutes, until the shallot is soft and slightly golden. Add the ginger garlic paste. Cook until it's fragrant. Add the eggplant, ground coriander, cumin powder, ¼ teaspoon paprika, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Stir for about 5 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons green bell pepper, chopped green Thai chiles (if used) and 2 tablespoons each of mint and flat-leaf parsley. Stir constantly so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom the pan. Season with salt. Mash the eggplant using a potato masher or a fork until all the eggplant pulp is puréed. Remove from the heat. Let the eggplant cool completely.
Cover and chill the eggplant mixture in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.
In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons blue cheese, cream cheese and milk until smooth. Whisk well so the texture is even.
Remove the eggplant from the refrigerator ahead of time to bring it back to room temperature. Add the rest of the bell pepper, remaining mint and the reserved chopped shallot. Adjust seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold the dairy mixture into the eggplant filling. Drizzle with lemon juice.
Baking the puff pastry:
Place a silicon mat or a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray.
This next step is optional and purely aesthetic. Cut each puff pastry square into 4 little squares. Make to "L"-shaped slits inside of each puff pastry square. The slits should form a square themselves but be careful not to connect them. Take the outer corner and fold it towards the opposite "L" bracket. Repeat the process in the reverse direction. The folding of the two outer corners toward the opposing inner corners will create a pretty twisting effect and a nice pocket in which you can put the filling.
Place the dough on the baking tray. Prick the center of the dough with a fork to let some of the steam out as they bake and top with ceramic pie weights (or dried beans).
Bake for 5 minutes at 375°F; lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 13-15 minutes. The texture of the puff pastry should be very flaky.
Remove and discard the pie weights (or dried beans).
Using 2 teaspoons, gather one portion of the eggplant filling in one spoon. Scrape the loose mixture from the sides using the other spoon and fill in the cavity of each puff pastry.
Dust with paprika (using a fine-mesh strainer), top with a piece of blue cheese and garnish with parsley leaves.
Indian cuisine always calls for ginger garlic paste. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife, then finely chop it. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a small jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.
I usually use store-bought puff pastry dough from a local Middle Eastern market. Often, I have found that the puff pastry dough sold at local chain stores is made with hydrogenated oils or lard instead of butter. At Middle Eastern markets, it's always made with butter.
If you want a milder taste, you could substitute the blue cheese for goat cheese or Parmesan cheese.Published By: on May 17, 2011.